The 5 Biggest Issues Affecting the Muslim Youth 

“Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research is a research institute which aims to instill conviction and inspire contribution based on mainstream Islamic texts.” Islam has a centuries-long tradition of inspiring people to contribute to humanity based on conviction in its teachings. Throughout the centuries , Muslims contributed to fields of medicine, philosophy, architecture… With the rise of Islamophobia, Islam has been cast as irrational, violent and incompatible with modern civilization putting Western Muslims on the defensive. One of the most underestimated impacts of Islamophobia is the effect it is having on Muslim youth who are experiencing multiple attacks against their faith. Here are 5 of the crises affecting Muslim youth in the west  

1. Internalized Racism

The racist messages and stereotypes that are spread in our societies affect us in ways we often don’t realise, particularly when it comes to kids. Internalized racism is a serious issue, where members of a minority adopt the discriminatory stereotypes they hear from others about their own group. 1 in 3 Muslim children between 5-9 didn’t want to tell others they were Muslim, 1 in 2 didn’t know whether they could be both Muslim and American, and 1 in 6 sometimes pretended not to be Muslim.  

2. Identity Confusion

Muslim youth tend to distinguish between different levels of “Muslimness”, based on religious symbols and religiosity. The hijab, for example, is often seen on a spectrum between extreme, liberal, or simply religious. Muslim youth are also exhausted from needing to constantly prove both their “Muslim-ness” to “Muslims”, and their “Western-ness” to others. This often leads to young people feeling like they have to choose one over the other, resulting in either social isolation, or an abandoning of Islamic values.  

3. Personal Experiences

People’s relationships with God are often very similar to their relationships with people. They can feel distant from or even traumatized by God if they have been hurt by those closest to them. A bad experience in the mosque, or an abusive parent, can and does serve as a reinforcement of Islamophobic messages. Young Muslim women in particular face the greatest pressures in society, yet feel the least accommodated in the mosques they attend.
Muslim Youth in the west

4. Women’s Issues vs. Violence.

Two major Islamophobic messages often present in the media are Islam’s violence, and its oppression of women. Whilst Muslims have prioritised pushing back the association with violence ever since 9/11, the issue of gender injustice has become a bigger priority. Whilst many young Muslims do not believe that Islam is inherently violent, a large number do associate Islam with the oppression of women.  

5. Empowerment or Impediment

Young Muslims in the West often see Islam as hindering their opportunities for success. “It’s not secret that we have to compromise our principles to get up there” Rayyan, 19 Involvement in charity efforts and volunteerism does help young Muslims feel empowered by their faith, however more contemporary role-models are needed to offer a reassuring narrative.   The Muslim youth are facing an extremely challenging time, and need proactive support to stay strong in their faith and identity. May Allah guide them and all of us!   Read more in this Article by Omar Suleiman